Globally, some 210 million people, or 4.8 per cent of the population aged 15-64, took illicit substances at least once in the previous year. Overall drug use, including problem drug use, (0.6 per cent of the population aged 15-64) remained stable. However, demand soared for substances not under international control, such as piperazine and cathinone. The effects of cannabis are also being mimicked by synthetic cannabinoids, or "spice".

Less opium in Afghanistan, slight increase in Myanmar

Global opium poppy cultivation reached some 195,700 hectares (ha) in 2010, a small increase over 2009. Opium production declined, however, by 38 per cent to 4,860 tons due to a blight that wiped out much of the opium harvest in Afghanistan. While cultivation in Afghanistan remained stable, the global trend was mainly driven by increases in Myanmar, where cultivation rose by some 20 per cent from 2009. Consequently, opium production in Myanmar increased from 5 per cent of global production in 2007 to 12 per cent in 2010. Global opium production declined by 45 per cent between 2007 and 2010, particularly as a result of poor yields in 2010 , but this trend is unlikely to continue.

Global cocaine cultivation lessens due to decline in Colombia; US cocaine market shrinks

The global area under coca cultivation shrank to 149,100 ha in 2010, an 18 per cent drop from 2007. During that time, potential cocaine production fell by about one-sixth, reflecting the significant decrease in cocaine production in Colombia. Consequently, this decline was not offset by small increases in Peru and the Plurinational State of Bolivia.

The US cocaine market has witnessed massive declines in recent years. Nevertheless, the US continues to be largest cocaine market, with an estimated consumption of 157 tons of cocaine in 2009.

Over the past decade, cocaine consumption in Europe has doubled (though over the last few years it has remained largely stable). It is estimated that about 21 tons of cocaine were trafficked via West Africa to Europe in 2009. This is down from two years before, when the total could have reached as high as 47 tons.

Meanwhile, market prices for cocaine have dropped appreciably since the mid-1990s. Just a decade ago, the North American market for cocaine was four times larger than that of Europe. Today the estimated value of the European cocaine market (US$ 36 billion) is approaching that of the US market (US$ 37 billion).

Cannabis - the world's drug of choice

Cannabis remains by far the most widely produced and consumed illicit substance globally, although data on cannabis are limited. In 2009, between 2.8 per cent and 4.5 per cent of the world population aged 15-64 - between 125 and 203 million people - had used cannabis at least once in the past year.

While cannabis herb (marijuana) production is widespread, notably in the Americas and Africa, cannabis resin production (hashish) continues to be concentrated in just two countries: Morocco, supplying the West European and North African markets, and Afghanistan supplying the markets in South-West Asia. Cannabis resin was a far more profitable crop than opium poppy in 2010 in Afghanistan.

Synthetic drugs - South-East Asia and Africa under the radar

Soaring production, trafficking and consumption of amphetamine-type stimulants accompanied by a resurgence in opium cultivation and heroin trafficking are a big concern in South-East Asia. "The gains we have witnessed in the traditional drugs markets are being offset by a fashion for synthetic 'designer drugs' mimicking illegal substances," said the Executive Director.

In his end remarks at the launch Mr. Fedotov noted that "drugs cause some 200,000 deaths a year. Since people with serious drug problems provide the bulk of drug demand, treating this problem is one of the best ways of shrinking the market." He also spoke on the half-decade of the 1961 drug convention: "This year is the 50th anniversary of the keystone of the international drug control system: the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs. Its provisions remain sound and highly relevant, as does its central focus on the protection of health."

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